Soul Zhang Lu Paints

Soul Zhang Lu Paints the Town with Colors of Autism Awareness

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In recent years, there has been a notable uptick in the incidence of autism across the globe, and China is no exception. At this time, nearly 10 million individuals in the country are living and struggling with autism. Despite being diagnosed in childhood, the myriad of symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) make it hard for people who suffer from the condition to integrate themselves into society. Their inadvertent exclusion is what led the founder of Soul, Zhang Lu to take up the cause of autism awareness.  

Recognizing both the urgency of the situation and Soul App’s position as a platform favored by China’s Gen Z who are keen to make a difference in society, Ms. Zhang Lu decided to undertake a variety of initiatives to champion the cause of creating awareness about ASD. Her goal was to foster ongoing dialogue about the condition through such events and ultimately create a pathway toward empathy for autistic individuals.

And to this end, the team of Soul Zhang Lu collaborated with WABC Shanghai Art Way Foundation a few years back for an event called “Different Socks Day”. The campaign was launched to foster inclusion and acceptance for individuals living with autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. It marked the beginning of a partnership that has since hosted a number of events. Over the years, Soul Zhang Lu and WABC have promoted autism awareness through the:

  1. The “Special Doesn’t Mean Lonely” exhibition – A one-of-a-kind event that saw autistic teens collaborating with Soul volunteers for a painting exhibition. This was Soul’s first taste of using art as a medium to promote autism awareness and philanthropy.
  2. The “Stars Meet Songs” music party – As the name suggests, this was a musical event that sent out the message of inclusion, empathy, and understanding for autistic individuals.

Through these campaigns, Soul Zhang Lu displayed a purposeful commitment to addressing social issues that matter. In fact, Soul App has distinguished itself by leveraging its influence for positive societal impact from the very beginning. The platform’s partnership with WABC has further helped the Soul team to create a launching pad for meaningful conversations about neurodiversity.

Because Soul predominantly caters to China’s Gen Z, Soul Zhang Lu recognized early on that the evolving priorities of the younger generation meant that they were increasingly interested in charitable causes and volunteering activities. Also, Ms. Zhang Lu was aware of the fact that raising awareness about autism resonated with the core values of the Soul platform – “Making loneliness go away for all.”

Together these factors meant that it was possible to use Soul App to create a space where empathy and understanding for autistic individuals thrive not just through philanthropic acts but also through meaningful, ongoing conversations about the condition.

Soul’s latest initiative which used art as a medium for expression was held in last December. The 8-day event called “Painting Away Loneliness Fur-ever” synergized virtual and real-world campaigns to accomplish 4 goals:

  1. To spread autism awareness through meaningful and constructive conversations about neurodiversity.
  2. To encourage ongoing dialogues about autism, the challenges faced by autistic individuals and their families, and the need to promote inclusivity for them.
  3. To raise funds for autism awareness and for helping autistic children.
  4. To host an event where all visitors feel the power of kindness, compassion, and empathy in creating a space where no one feels lonely.

And, the “Painting Away Loneliness Fur-ever” event managed to cover them all in one fell swoop. It all started with autistic children being allowed to let loose their creativity and imagination on canvas. The results were works of art that were an expression of the unique way in which the “Children of the Stars”, as they are fondly called in China, perceive the world.

Each young artist had his/her very own story to tell and an exceptionally creative way to handle the narrative, which showcased the diversity within the autism community. For instance, the hugely talented young artist Yangyang let his strong personal style shine through his work while Ah Ye, let his work be the expression of his love for life, and the inimitable Jielin, exhibited remarkable savant skills in his painting.

The curated masterpieces were not just displayed at an exhibition but also digitized and turned into creative products for sale, with all proceeds directed towards supporting WABC’s mission to use art as therapy.

Beyond this, the team of Soul Zhang Lu also extended the reach of the exhibition through its digital platform, devoting a dedicated in-app website page to the event. This page provided background information about the painters, insights into their artwork, and the emotions they aimed to convey.

Soul Zhang Lu also wanted to offer users, who were unable to attend the exhibition in person, a chance to be a part of it. So, Soul provided users with the opportunity to engage with the event by using the hashtag #MeltLonelinessTogether. This allowed users to appreciate and discuss the paintings online and share their thoughts on the exhibition, fostering a sense of community and collective support.

In addition to this, the venue of the event on Julu Road was decked up not only with paintings but also with plush materials and soft toys. The idea was to create a space that was so comforting and soothing to the senses that it would at once melt away worries, anxieties, and fear. This setting was meant to illustrate how kindness and emotional connection have the power to shoo away loneliness and bring together diverse individuals through the magnetic power of shared interests.

Going forward, Soul Zhang Lu intends to continue the platform’s involvement with social causes, particularly promoting autism awareness. And given the exemplary way in which this event was handled, many are waiting to see the innovative approach that the Soul Team will use to plan the platform’s next such event.